This week’s Dean’s Note is guest-authored by Emily Barman, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
As the new Associate Dean of the Graduate School, I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss the state of graduate education in the College of Arts & Sciences. Graduate education is an important part of the College’s mission and has a long and distinguished history. Founded in 1874 as the School of All Sciences, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS) granted its first MA and PhD in 1877. Today, about 1,800 students are enrolled in MA, MS, MFA, and PhD programs in over forty fields. Our graduate students benefit from the mentoring and commitment of our internationally recognized faculty, opportunities to engage with programs, faculty, and students in other schools and colleges, and our university’s stimulating urban location. The strength of our graduate programs reflects Boston University’s status as a major research university.
Under Jeffrey Hughes, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences has been strengthened by a number of major changes over the last few years. In 2013, the Graduate School began providing five years of funding for all incoming PhD students, permitting them to focus exclusively on their coursework and research. The Graduate School also initiated Graduate Research Abroad Fellowships, which provide financial support for PhD students conducting their dissertation research outside the United States. The development of graduate program certificates, in areas such as Teaching Writing and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, permit the recognition of students’ knowledge base in a specialized area, alongside their graduate degree. GRS oversaw the creation and growth of several professional Master’s programs, such as the Master of Science in Statistical Practices, which provide the necessary skills and experience for success in today’s global economy. Finally, led by the university’s Graduate Affairs Office, our graduate students are receiving expanded benefits and resources, including a three-percent increase in the PhD stipend and new resources for PhD students with children.
Yet there is more to be done. As the new Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, I hope the Graduate School will further improve our graduate programs by helping to recruit the best graduate students and enhancing the experience of our graduate students while at Boston University. Specifically, after conversations with graduate students, faculty, and staff across the Graduate School and the university, I have committed to four initiatives.
First, the Graduate School, like the College of Arts & Sciences, is committed to a diverse and inclusive environment. To help realize this goal, we need to improve recruitment and admission by identifying and funding strategies to enroll promising students. One example is GRS’s implementation of fee waivers for certain applicant groups. Underrepresented groups also face a unique set of challenges once they begin the graduate experience. The Graduate School will work with and support our graduate programs to develop policies to foster retention and advancement for all Master’s and PhD students.
Second, we need to re-envision the advising and training of our students for postgraduate employment. The employment terrain faced by our PhD graduates is changing, and – in many disciplines – it is changing radically. The Graduate School is determined to not only continue to provide our students with a world-class academic education but also the skills and support necessary for rewarding careers in non-academic settings. Some initiatives are already underway across GRS, including paid internship opportunities for Humanities PhD students. More efforts are in the works to provide our graduate students with the knowledge and capacity needed for career success beyond the ivory tower.
Third, as the Graduate School attracts students from across the globe, we should be providing the programs and support necessary for our international graduate students to thrive at Boston University. We will be working with other offices to help international students in GRS effectively transition to our university and to offer the social, academic, mentoring, and teaching opportunities necessary to ensure students’ success in our graduate programs and beyond.
Finally, the Graduate School will strive to provide a safe and supportive community for our graduate students, where all are treated with dignity and respect. We are striving now to enhance the lines of communication that exist between graduate students, graduate programs, and the Graduate School. I have begun regular meetings with graduate students. The Graduate School also will address students’ concerns around their safety and rights, as well as expand the program offerings necessary for their physical and mental wellbeing, whether here at BU or while abroad doing research.
As the Graduate School looks forward, I am excited about the promise of these initiatives and I look forward to working with you.